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May backs plan to scrap Brexit backstop in struggle for a deal

31 Janvier 2019

WhatsApp discussions between politicians, including leading Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg and Pro-EU Nicky Morgan, were made public Monday on night and confirmed by the two sides. That would be good news for business and markets but a humiliating loss for May.

Mrs. May's gamble is that Europe - keen to avoid such a messy "no-deal" Brexit and frustrated by the fact that Britain has failed as yet to speak with one voice on the matter, might give her some new leeway if she presents a plan with solid parliamentary backing. It is meant to ensure that whatever else happens, there will be no return to a visible border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic after the United Kingdom leaves the EU. The backstop has been a sore point for many Tory MPs who argue it defeats the goal of Brexit, which was to leave the bloc as soon as possible.

Parliament nonetheless backed, by 317 votes to 301 votes, a call for the border measure to be replaced by unspecified "alternative arrangements". It was the biggest government defeat in the House of Commons for more than a century and prompted two weeks of soul-searching and debate over how to resolve the impasse inside the government. May said after the vote.

This would give May "the mandate I need to negotiate in Brussels... a significant and legally binding change to the Withdrawal Agreement", she said.

However, she acknowledged the huge task ahead.

Meanwhile EU negotiator Sabine Weyand warned that the risk of a no-deal was now "very high".

The Institute for Government's Jill Rutter described it as "unnegotiable", based on ideas that had been rejected "time and again" by Brussels.

A top European Commission official says it would be "a stupid thing" for the European Union to make any concessions to Britain that would put the bloc at a disadvantage just to clinch a Brexit agreement.

Robert Hazell, professor of government and the constitution at University College London, said the European Union was "pretty resolute in not being willing to reopen the negotiations unless the British government can come back with something more specific".

The EU insists the Brexit agreement can not be reopened.

French President Emmanuel Macron's office said there could be no renegotiation and demanded a "credible" British proposal. "It is not renegotiable".

The EU has said it will not change the legal text agreed with the UK PM.

Dismissing calls for changes to the backstop as "like Groundhog Day", she insisted the EU27 were unanimous in opposing any time limit.

Ms Sturgeon said: "I don't think she had a clue herself where she's going, if I can be as blunt as that".

During her speech to her backbenchers, the PM also told MPs if they wanted Brussels to take notice "you have to do more than talk about it - you have to vote for it". At that point if there was still no trade deal, the backstop would kick in. The backstop would remain in place until a trade deal was struck, which could take several years.

The BBC said the letter highlighted food retailers' fears of disruption to suppliers at the end of March, noting that 90 per cent of lettuces, 80 per cent of tomatoes and 70 percent of soft fruit is imported from the European Union at that time of year. Still, $1.32 would likely remain a tough hurdle for the currency to clear as the amendment being approved doesn't remove the uncertainty around how to move forward. Which about 20 of her ministers know and hate - so if she goes that route some or all of them quit today or at the latest in two weeks (Clark, Rudd, Gauke, Ellwood, Harrington and so on - even possibly Lidington and Hammond).

This seeks to shift control of Brexit from May's government to parliament by demanding that on February 5, the rule that government business takes precedence in parliament is overturned.

May backs plan to scrap Brexit backstop in struggle for a deal